I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
I was there nineteen hundred fifty years ago when they crucified my Lord!
I was there, too, in Joseph’s garden on the third day when He arose from the dead!
At Golgotha’s hill I was present. Still more, I was on Golgotha’s hill, and I was nailed to the accursed tree. I was there just as really as though they had driven the nails through my hands and my feet. I was there just as really as though I had experienced in those six hours of the crucifixion all the agonies and pains of hell. I was there as really as though I had cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” And I was there as really as though I had cried with a loud voice, “It is finished!” For “‘I have been crucified with Christ.”
And I was there on Good Friday when they laid Him in the tomb. And I was there with Him in the sepulchre, wrapped in the grave clothes. And I was there—with Him, in Him—when with a mighty triumph He arose, the Victor o’er the dark domain, alive through death.
For: I have been crucified with Christ; but yet I live! I have resurrection-life, life out of the dead. And yet I live not all by myself. Nor do I live merely next to or alongside of Christ. No, Christ lives in me. And I live only in Him, live by the faith of which the very Son of God Himself is the object. For that Son of God loved ME! He gave Himself for ME!
How and why and on what ground is it possible to say such things?
Note carefully that this is a very personal confession. The apostle is not merely expounding an objective doctrine here. He is not merely saying: “All God’s people, or all the elect, or all who believe on Christ’s name have been crucified with Christ, and now live.” He does not merely state, “Christ lives in all His own.” Nor does he set forth a dogma of definite atonement and say: “The Son of God loved His elect, those whom the Father gave Him. And, because He loved them, He gave Himself in the behalf of and as the substitute for all those elect, and for them only in His atoning death.” All this may be very true, but it is not the point of God’s Word in this verse.
In fact, the apostle does not even speak in terms of “we” and “us” here.
No, this is a personal confession in the most specific sense, in terms of “I” and “me.” The apostle—and must he not often have thought of that fact, even as he does in this very epistle (Gal. 1:13), that beyond measure he persecuted the church of God and destroyed the faith which he now preached—is speaking of himself and of his own part with the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the fact that the Son of God loved him personally and gave Himself for him personally. And the intent of this Word of God is that we by faith shall go along with this very personal confession and make it our own.
But then, don’t you see, this very personal confession, if it is true, if it is more than a highly elevated and emotional outburst, must be based upon and must be the expression of objective fact, must be the expression of what was objective reality and of what really and truly happened, of a real event, before Paul ever made or could make this confession. And if you and I make this confession, the same must be true. Understand this well. The apostle is speaking exactly of this. He is not speaking of something which becametrue of Christ and of him when he first believed. He is speaking of something which was true many years before he was converted on the Damascus-road. And the same is true for us. When we make this confession, we are not speaking of something whichbecame true after we were born and after we believed, or perhaps through our believing it. Then our confession is after all a lie. Then it is not based on objective facts and events, and then it is not the expression of objective truth.
No, the apostle is looking back to the event of the cross on Golgotha’s hill, some thirty years or so before he makes this statement, and therefore also many years before he even knew it was true, and he is saying, “then and there the Son of God knew me and loved me and gave Himself for me.” And you and I, when we make this confession in the twentieth century, are saying, “Then and there, nineteen and a half centuries ago, long before I ever saw the light of day and came from my mother’s womb, the Son of God knew me (put your own name here) and loved me and gave Himself for me, though I did not and could not possibly know it then.”
This is what is meant—if I may connect this meditation with the theme of this special issue—by sovereign election and definite atonement. O, as long as you phrase it in objective doctrinal terms, you probably do not think of this. Then you say, “God chose a certain definite number of men. He gave them from eternity to Christ. And Christ died His vicarious death in the stead of and in behalf of that certain definite number of persons, thereby obtaining for them perfect righteousness and all the other benefits of salvation.” You may even stress that both election and the atonement were personal. And all of this—don’t misunderstand—is true; and necessary it is to state these dogmas, highly necessary especially in our day.
But now give that multitude of elect names and faces. Think of them in terms of Abel and Seth and Abraham and Moses and David, or in terms of Paul and Peter and John and Titus and Timothy and Crispus and Gaius and Tertius. Think of them in terms of the fact that the Son of God loved each one of them personally, knew them, and gave Himself for them. Think of that multitude of elect in terms of your own name and face and those of your fellow saints whom you know personally. Think of the fact that these names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, of the fact that they were there, with Him, when He died and rose again, that He knew them and loved them and gave Himself for them—every last one of them, and them only. Think of the fact that in that very real sense the election of God and the atonement of Christ are personal. And then does not what might be termed the blurriness of an objective doctrine begin to give way to the bright light of a sure and only comfort? Yea, does not the dazzling brightness of the glory of our Sovereign God and the amazingly wonderful character of His beautiful grace shine forth?
Think of it!
The Son of God loved me!
The Son of God, very God of God, Light of Light, and that, too, as the Word made flesh—the Son of God in the divine nature and in the human nature—He loved me! That surely means, first of all, that the Triune God loved me, loved me from all eternity, loved me with an eternally first love. And He from all eternity gave me to Christ, His only begotten Son. My name was written in the Lamb’s book of life! And He loved me. Yes, He loved me from eternity. But the point of the text is very definitely that He loved me especially in the moment of the cross, the moment when He gave Himself for me. And it was that love which was the revelation of the eternal love of the Triune God.
That love was sovereign! He loved me when I was a sinner, an enemy of God, when I did not and could not and would not love Him! He loved not a vague number of men, among whom I also was one. No, He loved me personally! He loved me also and emphatically when with the rest of fallen mankind I nailed Him to the accursed tree.
Yes, indeed, it was His love toward the Father that moved Him to go the way of the cross. But in that very love of the Father it was love also toward me, poor, miserable, lost wretch of a guilty sinner.
He loved me so that He gave—amazing grace—HIMSELF for me!
Yes, Himself! He, the Son of God, very God of God—be it in the human nature—gave Himself. Do not the Scriptures put it elsewhere that we were purchased with the very blood of God?
For me, He did this. And that means, first of all, that He did it for my benefit, in my behalf, so that I might profit from it, have all the advantage accruing from it, all the advantage that is implied in the one word: resurrection-life!
But “for me” can be in my behalf and for my benefit only because it is in the deepest sense of the word “in my stead, as my substitute.”
And this, in turn, stands connected with the fact that the apostle says, “I have been crucified with Christ.” This points us to the fact that we—all the elect—were inChrist when He died the accursed death of the cross, thus giving Himself for us. We were one with Him. We were one with Him legally, so that in His death of the cross He represented us. According to God’s counsel He was our representative head, and was crucified as such, not as a mere individual. And I was in Him, just as really as I was in Adam when he first sinned. And so I could be and was crucified with Him nineteen hundred fifty years ago. And when I was crucified with Him, when He died the death of the cross and bore the curse in my stead and in my behalf, it was my curse that He bore and bore away. But I was one with Him also organically, so that His death is the death of my death, and so that His life in the resurrection is the life of my life. The result is that I experience the power of that crucifixion in my life. My old man of sin is crucified, and I am free from the law of sin and death, and live.
And being united to Him by a true and living faith, so that I know Him and put all my confidence in Him, so that He is the sole object of all my trust, I know this and have the firm confidence whereby I am able to confess it.
I know that I am free from condemnation, by His righteousness.
I know that I am free from corruption, by His holiness.
I know that I am free from all death, by His life.
I know that I am free from the fear of falling, by His victory.
And when I think on these things, sometimes it causes me to tremble!